Varying portrayals or interpretations of Holmes and Watson are numerous. With the recent 21st Century resurgence, the Baker Street boys have once again become part of our lives and the Warner Bros. film franchise has a lot to do with it. This particular version focuses on Holmes as the man of action. Guy Ritchie has Holmes (and Watson) get into more fights, hear more shots fired, have more things blow-up around them, and experience what seems like the type of mayhem that James Bond or even Batman and Robin would encounter. It was strange to see the great intellect of Holmes reduced to only a few lightening-quick moments.
RDJ's Holmes is an action-hero. Plain and simple. The movie-audience-member part of me enjoyed seeing an exciting, fun movie, but these days the Sherlockian part of me missed the Holmes I feel I know so well from Doyle's canon (and Cumberbatch's Sherlock, but that's another discussion). Sherlock Holmes, in this film, has lost the reflective intellect that make him a Victorian gentleman. In only two moments in more than two hours, the action man slowed down and became the man of thought. Holmes was a clean, well-dressed, Victorian gentleman, but this version is a complete opposite. The unkept, scruffy, almost un-hygenic appearance of this particular Holmes bothered me more this time around.
Jude Law's John Watson is a gleam of light in this darker, dirtier London. He perfectly retains Watson's loyalty and bafflement to his eccentric friend. Plus, he is able to take on the action just as much as this action-oriented Holmes. And, he looks his part. John manages to stay the soldier and doctor in manner and personality. Downey and Law do play the friendship well, and despite Watson's marriage, we still feel that the doctor will miss his friend and their adventures. Irene Adler was sadly disposed of quite quickly and Mycroft Holmes, "Sherly's" older brother, was played by the wonderful Stephen Fry. However, the elder Holmes fit into the scheme of things a bit awkwardly. I couldn't tell if he was the enigma from canon, or a comic relief element a la Nigel Bruce.
James Moriarty and Sebastian Moran, the baddies, played their part. As ominous and powerful as the great M is supposed to be, this one was almost underwhelming. Moran, M's Watson, was excellent as a baddie. Sebastian certainly showed his colors and turned out being far more interesting than the Big Bad. Combine that with the threat of war and Germans, it makes for an odd overall story.
There were a few clever references to canon, but on the whole Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is far from its roots. For those that like a good action movie, then they will not be disappointed. For this Sherlockian, the first turned out better than the sequel.